31 December 2011

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillippe Sendker

This title will be released on 31 January, 2012.

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

I couldn't put this book down.  I read it in just a day or two and I found it to be a beautiful story lovingly told by a talented writer.  It is magical and poignant; an amazing, achingly sublime love story.  It is a tale of faithfulness, perseverance,  hope and trust.  When have you ever loved someone enough to let them go without hatred or malice?  Have you ever felt that kind of deep emotion that rings true thorough out your life despite the circumstances?  Funny how people live lives that they know they were not meant to live simply because it is convenient or the right thing to do.  As I read this book my heart ached for the characters but it ached also for myself. There is something in this book that will touch you profoundly, spur you onto greater heights.  I know this because one can not read this tale without thinking about one's own life and the trajectory it is taking them on.  Are you really living how you want, with whom you want...are you really honoring your soul or are you only marking time until some later date?  Perhaps we could all learn the art of hearing heartbeats, beginning with listening to our own.



December in Kalaw is a cold month. The sky is blue and cloudless. The sun wanders from one side of the horizon to the other, but no longer climbs high enough to generate any real warmth. The air is clear and fresh, and only the most sensitive people can still detect any trace of the heavy, sweet scent of the tropical rainy season, when the clouds hang low over the village and the valley, and the water falls unchecked from the skies as if to slake a parched world’s thirst. The rainy season is hot and steamy. The market reeks of rotting meat, while heavy black flies settle on the entrails and skulls of sheep and cattle. The earth itself seems to perspire. Worms and insects crawl out of its pores. Innocent rills turn to rushing torrents that devour careless piglets, lambs, or children, only to disgorge them, lifeless, in the valley below.
   But December promises the people of Kalaw a respite from all of this.  December promises cold nights and mercifully cool days. December, thought Mya Mya, is a hypocrite.
   She was sitting on a wooden stool in front of her house looking out over the fields and the valley to the hilltops in the distance. The air was so clear that she felt she was looking through a spyglass to the ends of the earth. She did not trust the weather. Although she could not remember ever in her life having seen a cloud in a December sky, she would not rule out the possibility of a sudden downpour. Or of a typhoon even if not a single one in living memory had found its way from the Bay of Bengal into the mountains around Kalaw. It was not impossible. As long as there were typhoons anywhere, one might well devastate Mya Mya’s native soil. Or the earth might quake. Even, or perhaps especially, on a day like today, when nothing foreshadowed catastrophe. Complacency was treacherous, confidence a luxury that Mya Mya could not afford. That much she knew at the bottom of her heart. For her there would be neither peace nor rest. Not in this world. Not in her life.



Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Great Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is his first novel. He lives in Berlin with his family.
* I received a free copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

21 December 2011

The Bee-Loud Glade - Steve Himmer

Fiction, Trade Paperback Original
ISBN 978-0-9845105-8-0
6 x 9 in / 224 pages
Publication Date: April 4, 2011

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”
-W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

The Bee-Loud Glade is the story of Finch, a daydreamer whose job as a marketer of plastic plants consists mostly of updating the blogs of the imaginary people he creates. Once new management steps in and kicks him out, Finch slowly lets go of all ties to the outside world. With both his electricity and motivation shut off, he sinks into a state of oblivion, holed up in his apartment for weeks on end. But when his reply to what he thinks is innocuous spam sweeps him into the world of billionaire Mr. Crane, Finch agrees to live and work—for more money than he’s ever imagined—as an ornamental hermit in a cave on Mr. Crane’s estate.
This darkly comic commentary on modern work and wealth thoughtfully probes deep-rooted questions about the nature of man, the workplace, and society (and what happens in their absence). Set in a postmodern pastoral landscape, it brings a playfulness more commonly found in urban fiction to an outdoor setting. With light and engaging prose, Himmer deftly unearths the ironies of life and the futility of escape.


A while back I wrote a review for a Korean movie called "Castaway on the Moon" (review here).  This novel tracks the same premise...disillusioned soul finds himself inexplicably 'trapped' in the center of everything.  It is a theme that I personally find fascinating.

Mr. Himmer has written a novel that manages to be sublime and deeply thought provoking simultaneously.  Rarely do authors manage the two so deftly.  As a commentary on modern life Himmer pretty much nails the essence of our daily existence...and our collective modern way of living has never seemed so inane, so inexplicably ridiculous.  Finch is a perfect citizen in so many ways.  He does just what he is told to do and if he stops to question 'why' he doesn't dwell on it for very long...he simply follows whatever instruction has been given him to the best of his abilities though he rarely tries very hard.

Now, with nothing but time on my hands, I didn't know where to start and it was simpler to not start at all.  I had no more interest in finding a job than I had in anything else

He is in every way a thoroughly modern man.  He exists without any particular passion, without any definable goal, no dreams, no real emotions...he is essentially an empty case, vacant and vacuous.  And he doesn't even realize that this is a tragedy.

Over the course as his tenure as 'hermit' Finch undergoes a gradual transformation...nothing very dramatic, just a slow, soft ascent into the realm of higher values.  At one point in the story Finch is struck by the industry of nature, it's beauty and perfect imperfections he marvels...

All this had been happening every day of my life, while I'd been moving too fast and with too sluggish a mind to take note.  While I'd been too busy shitting and showering and shaving myself, trundling myself off to work in a mental fog that lent itself to traffic jam driving but not to being alive.

The nature of his Glade-somewhat manipulated by man, not entirely secluded and sort of dependent on the care of outsiders and it's slow transformation through the years toward total independence tracks the progress of Finch's spirit.  He is not so much adrift in isolation as he is cast out of a society that has lost it's meaning, it's soul, it's raison d'etre.  Here, in The Bee-Loud Glade a man finds himself and in the process has thrown the world a lifeline out of chaos and maybe back into the Garden.


Steve Himmer teaches at Emerson College in Boston, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and is on the faculty of the First-Year Writing Program. His stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Hobart, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Emprise Review, and Everyday Genius. He also is a frequent blogger on writing and teaching, and edits Necessary Fiction, a webjournal from So New Publishing, a press based in Eugene, Oregon.
You can find Bee-Loud Glade at Atticus Books here.

The Bee-Loud Glade is his first novel.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

17 December 2011


wear your white shirts. get them pressed.

use your good dishes -- everyday.

shave on weekends.

do not wait for special occasions.

do not tuck your best away in the drawers, in the back of the closet, in your heart.

don't wait for holidays or invitations.

declare that your today is the special occasion.

call instead of emailing. (it feels so good to connect.)

go for coffee.


take care of it.

renounce your glory days. you've told all of those stories more than twice.

focus forward.

wear perfume for yourself. toss your only-wear-around-the-house clothes and let your good clothes graduate to around-the-house status.

intend to feel good all of the time.

write your book.


burn your to-do list.

write poetry. one a day.

make a point to be as encouraging as possible, as much as possible, to everyone possible.
don't look back.

if you feel like you're always failing, consider that this is part of being an artist. let it be a divine inclination. keep going.



eat real food.

often refuse to be in the presence of people who make you feel repressed, anxious, or pull your frequency down.

do not entertain haters.

send light to the haters.

give it away. you probably don't need it and someone else does.

turn off the tv.

let it be easy.

burn candles. during the day.

fall in love. with yourself. with the person you're with. with the persons in your orbit.
because no one is perfect, but you can let the love be perfect for the both of you.
because everyone -- everyone -- is a doorway to God.
because you can get there from here.

because life is short.

*from HERE

16 December 2011

Nazareth, North Dakota - Tommy Zurhellen

 Nazareth, North Dakota: A Novel
by Tommy Zurhellen
Fiction, Trade Paperback Original
ISBN 978-0-9845105-6-6
5.25 x 8 in / 212 pages
Publication Date: April 15, 2011


This gem of a novel—a splendid recasting and modern retelling of the story of the young messiah—is a fast, quirky, dirt-kicking ride through the Badlands of North Dakota from the early 1980s to the present, complete with feathered locks, KISS cover bands, and fire-and-brimstone preachers. It’s an adventurous, irresistible tale about everything from a 31-year-old fugitive mom who escapes a motel shootout with an abandoned new born to a corrupt sheriff, a kindhearted carpenter, the world’s oldest man, and the chosen paths of two hell-raising, miracle-bent cousins.
This incandescent debut is an authentic religious allegory connecting Lakota history with scripture. It contains plot twists and undeniable truths as deep and wide as the Little Missouri River, with ideas and messages so big, so earthshaking, so unmistakably divine, they do more than transform the little town of Nazareth. They change the world.

Nazareth, North Dakota is an imaginative and whimsical retelling The New Testament.  Tommy Zurhellen's latest novel tracks the events of the Bible in modern times, his story populated by ever too real misfits, malcontents, lost souls and of course larger than life heroes.  It is a tale as old as time and yet presented under a modern context.  As such the reader must ask himself or herself just one question...exactly how would we react if Jesus arrived today?  Would you believe?  What if John the Baptist was planted on the shores of the Rio Grande...would you go?

Waiting around for God!  As if God isn't already in every blade of grass and slab of concrete we walk upon, and in the very air we breathe.  Waiting around for God!  As if the Lord doesn't show us miracles every single day.  A miracle is like a big billboard that reads, "Don't worry God's coming."  Sometimes we're too stubborn to look up and read the signs.

How could I not truly enjoy this novel?  Compelling characters that are familiar and yet brand new, a well known tale wrought anew by a slight twist of perspective.  Each day I approached my reading with an eager spirit and, in the end, that is all I could ask of any novel.



Tommy Zurhellen was born in New York City. Nazareth, North Dakota is his first novel.
To find out more about Tommy, his upcoming tour dates and his research for the sequel Apostle Islands, visit his website.
Read a short story written during the evolution of Nazareth, North Dakota.
Learn about Tommy’s many sources of inspiration for the novel at High Plains Reader.
Check out Tommy’s interview at Eleutherophobia, which covers everything from Nazareth to wave-making waterbeds.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

10 December 2011

May B. by Caroline Rose

On Sale: January 10, 2012
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-1-58246-393-3

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

CAROLINE STARR ROSE spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books by Laura Ingalls, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and went on to teach both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, the freedom to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Visit her at carolinestarrrose.com.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

08 December 2011

Tyndale Giveaway

There is a great giveaway happening over at the New Living Translation Facebook page, and a chance to enter a Tyndale Blog Network exclusive giveaway.

Here are the NLT Facebook page giveaway details:
Starting on November 29th until December 24th at the New Living Translation Facebook page they're giving away lots of great prizes and something free for just for singing up.
By visiting the giveaway entry page (located on the NLT Facebook page, the link is under the profile picture) and entering your name and e-mail address you'll be entered to win the following prizes:
  • One random person each day will win a Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (Guys Life Application Study Bible hc, Girls Life Application Study Bible hc, Student's Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible Large Print hc).
  • One Random person each week will win an Apple iPad 2!
Everyone that signs up gets a free download copy of the Life Application Bible Study – Book of Luke!

But Wait! 

There's more!

Here's how you can win by helping them promote this giveaway:

The first 100 people to post about this giveaway on their personal blog will win a free Life Application Study Bible. They'll also choose one person from all the entries to win a free Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (includes 6 Bibles!). You can earn extra entries by posting about the giveaway in multiple places.

For more details and to enter fill out this form with the link to your blog post (click here to visit the form).

Good Luck!

30 November 2011

Corus the Champion - Dean "D. Barkley" Briggs


He was once the greatest champion in the land.

Then he disappeared.

With Nemesia's defeat, the Barlows have helped turn the tide in the Hidden Lands. But the victory is short-lived. An even greater evil stirs in the north with a fierce new army bent on destruction. As the twins, Gabe and Garret, discover their own special powers, a thin thread of hope emerges: long ago, a fabled king was rescued from death on our world and hidden on Karac Tor. Who is he?

Each brother has their part to play. Hadyn must travel north to warn the land barons, which leaves Ewan with a bitter choice. Will he sacrifice what is most precious to discover whether Corus lives? Even more important, if Corus is alive, can he wake the Sleeping King of legend...before it's too late?


This series of books blends Arthurian legend with the author's incredible imagination.  Mr. Briggs writes confidently and with a masters touch - he is rather talented and he weaves a dense tale full of magic, deception and mysteries galore.   This book is second in what will be a series of five. Unfortunately, for me I haven't had the pleasure of reading book one.  So for the first few chapters or so I felt rather confused.  Now, usually I prefer that when reading a series of books that the author not spend an inordinate amount of time retelling and retelling what happened in previous books.  Too much backstory is tedious and interrupts the flow.   However, zero backstory leaves the reader on her own.  That would be my only caveat...read Book of Names first.  Please.  Otherwise, this is an immense saga spanning great distances and between great lengths of time and Mr. Briggs tells this story with a strong and lyrical voice. 

On a side note there is a very interesting story about this book.  At one point near the end of the book there is one rather odd sentence.  Now, it turns out that during the editing of the book there happened to be a gale storm of apparently epic proportions.  Mr. Editor presumably headed for higher ground and in the midst of such chaos there happened a weird little cut and paste accident.  Mr. Briggs explains it here and I suggest that you read his account of how it happened as I am told that I tend to mix up my facts from time to time.  Now I only want to know...What does Poplar Springs Baptist Church still need?!?! 


Dean "D. Barkley" Briggs is an author, father of eight, and waaay too prone to twisting his ankle whenever he attempts a pick-up basketball game in his old age. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lews, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few).
In the aftermath of losing his wife of 16 years, Dean decided to create a heroic journey that his four sons could relate to. Thus was born a new and paradoxical genre: semi-autobiographical fantasy, as Dean actively weaves elements of his life and family into the plots of his stories.
"The Legends of Karac Tor" tells the edgy, sweeping tale of four brothers who get stranded on another world. Together, they must find their courage, battle overwhelming odds, face their pain, and never quit searching for home. Five books total are planned.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper


Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

My daughter brought this book home for me after seeing it on one of her (numerous) book orders at school.  She said that it "just sounded so interesting, mommy".  I am truly one blessed Momma. 

There is no doubt that this book will stay with you for the rest of your life.  It's message will reside there somewhere in the depths and reaches of your being, fluttering just on the edges of your conscience it will speak to you, I guarantee that.  It will most likely change your world view. You will probably not see anyone the same again, you will never look upon the sea of human faces and simply dismiss them flippantly.  No, you will forever be changed if you read 'Out of My Mind'.

"You've got it easy-you have all of your physical functions working properly.  You never have to struggle just to be understood...you're just lucky...all of us who have our faculties intact are just plain blessed.  Melody is able to figure out things, communicate, and manage in a world where nothing works right for her."
Not even Melody's mother has any idea what is really going on inside of Melody.  Melody is trapped inside and she can't communicate the simplest things to those around her.  She wants to share memories with her parents and can't, the things she loves about them most she can't tell them, she hears a song and can not tell anyone that she likes it.  Oh, how I fell in love with Melody and how desperately I wanted to make it all okay...make it all go away.  Sometimes, I am struck by how much we take for granted.  Sometimes, this realization brings tears to my eyes.


Sharon Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire. She's also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho and November Blues. Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn, and Double Dutch. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She's a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

*The opinions stated herein are all my own.

22 November 2011


2009 Not Rated 116 minutes

Kim Seong-geun (Jae-yeong Jeong), despondent over being dumped by his girl, decides to end it all by jumping into the Han River, but instead wakes up on a tiny island in the middle of the waterway, now a castaway in the teeming heart of civilization. Part social commentary, part romantic adventure with hints of science fiction, Lee Hey-jun's film touches on topics ranging from economic disparity to the alienating nature of modern urban existence.
Jae-yeong Jeong
Hae-jun Lee
Comedies, Dramas, Foreign Movies, Romantic Movies, Foreign Comedies, Romantic Comedies, Foreign Dramas, Romantic Dramas, Romantic Foreign Movies, Korean Movies
This movie is:
Emotional, Imaginative, Romantic
I've been really into watching Korean movies lately.  Castaway on the moon is a fairly serious commentary on modern life. The commercialism, greed, consumption, our reliance on modern 'necessities' and our resulting crippling alienation from each other in the process.  While the overall them is quite heavy this movie has some pretty funny moments in it.  I found myself laughing out loud, crying and rooting for the characters - there are some very touching moments.  It is beautifully filmed...a near perfect film in my opinion.  So much about it works on so many levels.  The dichotomy of the hero being shipwrecked on an island in the middle of a bustling city-so close yet so far away.  A perfect metaphor for how so many of us live our lives today.  The heroine that has a self imposed alienation from the world, living in a virtual world, afraid of human contact also speaks to the modern way of life.  
There are some films that stay with you long after the last credits roll.  This is one such film.  It is truly amazing...easily one of the best films I've seen probably ever. 

I was really very surprised by how much I truly liked this film and found myself telling everyone about it.  I hope you'll take the time to give this film a watch. 

21 November 2011

The Law of Nines - Terry Goodkind

512 pages
Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (August 18, 2009)

  • ISBN-10: 0399156046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399156045
Turning twenty-seven may be terrifying for some, but for Alex, a struggling artist living in the midwestern United States, it is cataclysmic. Inheriting a huge expanse of land should have made him a rich and happy man; but something about this birthday, his name, and the beautiful woman whose life he just saved, has suddenly made him—and everyone he loves—into a target. A target for extreme and uncompromising violence . . . In Alex, Terry Goodkind brings to life a modern hero in a whole new kind of high-octane thriller. 


I haven't read this one.  It sounds interesting.  The reason why I am reviewing (sort of) this title here is because I am, like many others, beginning my annual holiday shopping.  There are a quite a number of people on my list that are clients. Some people on my list are just a tad more than acquaintances. Sometimes a gift needs just a little something extra.  You know, like when you get something small for your Aunt Sheila and you think she might notice that you only picked it up on the way out of Wal-Mart the day before Christmas?  And you feel guilty because you don't want to come across as a total cheapskate?  I'm just kidding.  Really, I don't shop at Wal-Mart.

Well, this year I'm approaching this thing from another angle altogether.  So, thus begins my holiday shopping list for all those lovely people that do not fall into my dearly loved category.  This is for all of you out there that I barely know and yet must buy a gift for.

The Law of Nines was a huge best seller.  Goodkind is apparently a very popular author and from what I can gather (no, I haven't read any of his books but let me tell ya' that I'm going to) he's had a TV show based on his books.  After reading (okay skimming) some reviews I gather that this book is part fantasy and part thriller.  Sounds good to me.  It should be mentioned that some reviewers said it had a slow start.  That's okay I guess because it has also been mentioned that the action does pick quite nicely.  

Now the good part.  Why is this on my list?  Why has this particular title been singled out?  The simple answer is the hardback is currently on sale for...$1.34.  It's one of dozens of Black Friday deals currently being offered on Amazon.  I figure that I can pick up maybe seven different titles from the list, get my total to twenty five dollars and have the lot of them delivered for free to my doorstep in just a few days.  Bam!  Seven people checked off my list.  I'm a happy camper.  With cash left over.

The Lake - Banana Yoshimoto

Translated by Michael Emmerich
While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.
It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.
They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .
With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving.


There is perhaps no other author like Banana Yoshimoto.  She writes with a spare beauty, delicately examining the nuances and secret places of the human heart.  In this, her latest novel, she quietly explores love and loss, alienation and fear.  Chihiro and Nakajima are wayward souls adrift in a sea of faceless humanity.  They manage to forge a cautious friendship that eventually leads them into each others arms. 

This is not necessarily new territory-a lot of authors write about love.  It is in the way Yoshimoto writes about love, her unique way of communicating the intricacies of such a complicated emotion that breathes new life into a well worn subject.  It is in her style, her precise use of language...each word placed with care and forethought, her innate realization that complexity begs for simplicity not the other way around.

I adore Banana Yoshimoto. I hope you will too.  I read her first novel, Kitchen, many years ago and have been enamored ever since.  If you ever get the opportunity to read one of her books I do suggest Kitchen but failing that The Lake is equally lovely. 

If you are so inclined there are discussion questions available for this book HERE.



BANANA YOSHIMOTO wrote her first novel, Kitchen, while working as a waitress at a golf-course restaurant. It sold millions of copies worldwide, and led to a phenomenon dubbed by Western journalists as “Banana-mania.” Yoshimoto has gone on to be one of the biggest-selling and most distinguished writers in Japanese history, winning numerous awards for her work. The Lake is her thirteenth book of fiction.
MICHAEL EMMERICH has translated numerous books by Banana Yoshimoto, and is also famous for his translations of Nobel Prize-winner Yasunari Kawabata.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

20 November 2011

Flourish in Progress

I discovered this blog a few months ago.  I haven't laughed so hard in...well, it's been a while.  The author is candid, outspoken, honest and hilarious. 

Anyway, I'll leave it up to you to peruse her pages at your leisure.  The reason I'm writing about her today is because last week she put out a request for 'gooder books' to read.  Every week she sets a little goal for herself and this last Monday it was to become more literate.  I know a lot of you that read my blog are quite well read and I thought maybe we could throw a few good titles her way.

Read her post here.

19 November 2011

Resonance - A.J. Scudiere

Dr. David Carter knows this. However, he’s a geologist, so ’soon’ means anywhere from tomorrow to a thousand years from now.
Drs. Jordan Abellard and Jillian Brookwood are standing at the edge of SuperAIDS. Or are they? They won’t be able to figure it out if they can’t get some authorization signed - and soon. But they’re peons and no one is paying attention. That means no one will notice a little forgery either, right?
Right now Dr. Becky Sorenson has some seriously mutated frogs in her lab. In L.A. Bees are making abnormal columns on the side of the freeways. In Georgia, birds are migrating out of season. It all makes a sick kind of sense when the doctors consider that the last magnetic shift is strangely coincidental to the dinosaur die-out. And the only similarity among the problems today is that each is occurring in a ‘hotspot’ - a pocket of reversed polarity that tells them all.


"The planet's northern magnetic pole is drifting slowly but steadily towards Russia -- and it's throwing off planes in Florida.
Tampa International Airport was forced to readjust its runways Thursday to account for the movement of the Earth's magnetic fields, information that pilots rely upon to navigate planes. Thanks to the fluctuations in the force, the airport has closed its primary runway until Jan. 13 to change taxiway signs to account for the shift, the Federal Aviation Administration said."  Read more: Here

I couldn't put it down, thank goodness it is a rather longish book at 484 pages.  As the ominous (really?) 21 December 2012 approaches I imagine we will be accosted by many doomsayers and fear mongers.  So, while this book was originally published in 2008 it is also a rather timely read (especially considering the recent slow drift of the poles that is currently happening...well, now.  Cue spooky music here, dum, dum, dum).

I love books like this.  It is solidly based in scientific fact with a dash of creative license thrown in.  It doesn't repeat itself over and over again the way some authors are wont to do especially when trying to explain rather complex ideas.  There is a bit of medical mystery, romance, scientific quandaries, quantum physics, biological mystery, and even some archeology in the mix.  So if you, like me, enjoy a good old fashioned race to beat the ticking clock type novel this one will leave you well sated.



It’s A.J.’s world.  A strange place where patterns jump out and catch the eye, very little is missed, and most of it can be recalled with a deep breath, it’s different from the world the rest of us inhabit.  But the rest of us can see it – when we read.  In this world, the smell of Florida takes three weeks to fully leave the senses and the air in Dallas is so thick that the planes “sink” to the runways rather than actually landing.
    For A.J., texture reigns supreme.  Whether it’s air or blood or virus, it can be felt and smelled.  School is a privilege and two science degrees (a BA and MS) are mere pats on the back compared to the prize of knowledge.  Teaching is something done for fun (and the illusion of a regular paycheck) and is rewarding at all levels, grade school through college.  No stranger to awards and national recognition for outstanding work as a teacher, trainer and curriculum writer, like most true teachers, the real joy for A.J. is in the “oh!” - the moment when the student sees the connection and it all makes sense.
    A.J. has lived in Florida and Los Angeles among a handful of other places.  Recent whims have brought the dark writer to Tennessee, where home is a deceptively normal looking neighborhood just outside Nashville.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

05 November 2011

Daylight Savings Time Is Here Again!

Don't Forget To "Fall" Back Sunday Night
06 November 2011

Daylight savings time explained in a handy dandy video:)

04 November 2011

Waiting to Forget - Sheila Kelly Welch

Waiting to Forget
Sheila Welch
Ages: 10 and up
Grades: 4th-8th
Pages: 172

T.J. has always looked out for his little sister, Angela. When Momma used to go out and leave them home alone, he'd lock the door so they'd be safe, keep Angela entertained, and get out the cereal and milk for her. When Momma's boyfriend got angry at them, he'd try to protect Angela. Later, at their foster homes, T.J. was the only one who knew how to coax his little sister out of her bad moods. The only one who understood why she made origami paper cranes and threw them out the window.

But now T.J. is sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, wondering if Angela, unconscious after a fall, will ever wake up. Wondering, too, if he will ever feel at home with his and Angela's new parents—Marlene, who insists on calling him Timothy, and Dan, who seems to want a different son.

Going back and forth between Now and Then, weaving the uncertain present with the painful past, T.J.'s story unfolds, and with the unfolding comes a new understanding of how to move forward.


I finished reading this book in a single day.  It felt like I was witnessing some sort of accident in slow motion, watching events unfold before my eyes and wondering how it all would turn out.  This story held a sort of morbid fascination for me.  As a mother I am always surprised by the depth of love I have for my child.  When she was born I was struck by the realization that I had never really known what love was until that precise moment she was laid in my arms.  Like, the emotion I had foolishly labled love was a cheap imitation, a vague pantomime of feeling that had no real substance. Whenever I read in the news about a child lost or neglected I am drawn into the story...it's like an itch.  I can't stop my morbid curiosity.  I read as tears well up and I grieve for the child, I pray for the parents-I pray and pray that all will be well.  To say that losing my child is my deepest fear is not giving that fear enough weight.  To say that I can not understand how any human being could willingly place their child in harm's way is understatement.  I can not make myself come to understand the selfishness, greed, vanity and carelessness that must be involved when a parent puts their needs before that of their child.

So I find myself drawn to stories of familial dysfunction in a need to find reasons.  Reasons why a parent would choose to abandon their child.  Reasons why a parent would choose to not love.  What is it that makes people tick?   I want to know why a mother would drown her children.  I want to know why a mother would leave her children alone.  I need to understand.  The tragedy needs to make sense for me or else I fear that I will lose any love for humanity that I have left.  Jesus taught us to love each other but how can I love a mother that leaves her baby to die?  How can I love a parent that willingly murders, abandons, hurts...

So I read these stories of loss and despair searching for that intangible something that will put the pieces into place.  I search the stories looking for any thing I can cling to that I could empathize with.  Some little bit that I could justify.  I pray that Jesus will help me along the way.  Help me to see these lost souls through His loving and forgiving eyes.

Waiting to Forget didn't really help me find the answers I seek.  I am beginning to think that some things can not be justified no matter what.  That, senseless acts of violence and neglect happen because people simply allow them to.  Perhaps they are lacking in an essential ingredient to their humanity...their ability to have empathy, their ability to feel anything besides primal hunger.

Waiting to Forget is a simple portrait of lives lived under less than ideal circumstances.  The author deftly avoids the darker aspects of child neglect and I for one am grateful for that.  Some things can not be unread so I am glad that the author treated her characters with a loving hand and by consequence she spares the reader the brunt of terrible acts that can not be undone.  At it's core this story is about the resiliency of the human spirit, of our ability to see hope which is at the core of our humanness.  That trait is God given and enables us to be survivors, it shows us daily the face of God lest we forget that He exists.  Hope is our gift.  We should use it wisely and give it freely.


Sheila Kelly Welch

I began writing and drawing before I started school. In first grade my black crayon was always worn down from making pictures of horses with long manes and flowing tails. In junior high school, I began to think about a career, and I actually wrote in my diary, "Maybe someday I'll make my own children's books, illustrations and all."
When I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, I majored in fine arts and also received a master's degree in education. In the next few years, my husband, Eric, and I began to raise our family. We bought and sold a farm in Minnesota, I taught school, and Eric decided to become a librarian.
Then, in 1981, I had open heart surgery. With my artificial valve ticking away, I knew that if "someday" was ever going to arrive, I'd better get busy. My first short story was published in 1983. Since then my short stories, often accompanied by my illustrations, have appeared in a number of magazines including Cricket, Children's Playmate, Girls' Life, The Friend, Ladybug, Cicada, and Spider. Several of my short stories have been published in language arts textbooks. I've also written and/or illustrated fourteen books for children of various ages.
Now I live in the country near Forreston, Illinois with my husband and a menagerie of pets. We have seven grown-up children and seven grandchildren. I enjoy volunteering at the local animal shelter and visiting nursing homes with my certified therapy dog. Raven and I also participate in the "Paws for Reading" program at the library. Children read aloud to the dogs.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

25 October 2011

Invasion - Jon S Lewis

Book Description

Colt McAlister is drawn into a war against things he thought only existed in comic books.
After a car wreck takes the lives of his parents, Colt moves to Arizona to stay with his grandfather. There, an informant tells him that his parents were actually murdered because his mom, a journalist, was getting ready to write a story exposing Trident Industries.
Along with Oz and Danielle, his new comrades at Chandler High, Colt vows to uncover the truth. But the more they learn, the more bizarre reality becomes. Mind control, jet packs, and flying motorcycles only scratch the surface of what they discover.
Colt is recruited by a secret organization called the Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural. But the battle isn't just against an out-of-control giant corporation. A gateway to another world is opening, and the invasion has already begun.


This was an easy, entertaining read that should appeal to young teenagers and up.   As an adult reading this I love that the teenagers involved in the story exhibit good moral values and possess fine character traits.  While not an overtly Christian book the model of good vs. evil is clearly defined and the Invasion website offers some pretty great 'lesson plans' to go along with the book.  To give you an idea I've included...

Lesson One:

Lesson 1 - Defeating the Giants

Week One
Defeating the Giants
Lesson: (You can read this to the kids or put it in your own words).
Read 1 Samuel 17:1-19

Have you ever watched a scary movie or played an intense video game? Even though you know it's "fake" it still gets your mind racing and your heart pumping. You're battling zombies or monsters, or watching robots attack the earth, and you feel like you're ready to fight them in real life. It can be sort of fun to scare yourself when it's just a game or a movie. But sometimes, you're facing problems in your life that are difficult, and they're not pretend. Not so fun, right?

Maybe you get bullied or picked on at school. Maybe you're worried because your parents argue a lot, or maybe they have split up. Maybe someone you care about has cancer or some other serious illness. Or you may feel stressed about school, maybe you're worried about your grades or how hard it is. Maybe you, or someone you know, wrestle with an addiction. Whether it's drugs, alcohol, pornography or even food, addictions feel like huge, fierce giants that are hard to fight.

The Bible tells us that no matter what difficulty we face, God is with us, and will help us.

Over the next four weeks, we're going to be talking about how we can stand strong, with God's help, against the difficulties in our lives.
The Bible tells the story of a mighty king and warrior named David. But before he became king, he was just the youngest kid in his family. His older brothers looked down on him, even mocked him. They never took him seriously just because he was younger. (see 1 Samuel 17:28)

The Bible says that David's brothers went off to war, to fight against an enemy nation, the Philistines. David's people, the Israelites, had a history of disputes with the Philistines. One Philistine, Goliath, was a giant. The bible says he was more than nine feet tall! That's taller than any NBA player. But he wasn't just tall, he was big and muscular, bigger than an NFL linebacker. Nine feet tall, totally ripped, carrying a huge spear and looking for trouble.

So at the place where the Israelites were supposed to fight the Philistines, Goliath started trash-talking the Israelites, taunting them to send out one man to fight with him, man to man. All the soldiers were afraid to fight him, which was not that surprising. David's father sent him out to the battlefield, not to fight, but to deliver some food to his brothers.

When he heard Goliath insulting Israel and worse, insulting God, David asked his brothers why they would just stand and take such incredible disrespect. Since every other Israelite was apparently a chicken, little David ends up fighting Goliath. Next week we're going to talk more next week about what happened in the battle, but right now, let's think about this situation, and how it is similar to our lives.

Now, your parents probably aren't sending you to bring snacks to people on a battlefield, right? And you're not probably going to run into some nine foot tall giant challenging you to a fight on the way home from school. But that doesn't mean you don't have challenges, and some might feel like a battle with a giant.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to be talking about David, and also reading this great book, Invasion. The kid in this book, Colt McAlister, is a lot like David—except instead of fighting a giant, he has to fight against evil alien creatures called Thule, who are trying to take over the world. Colt is in training to become an agent for CHAOS, an agency fights alien invaders. Pretty soon Colt finds himself in the midst of a battle not just to save his own life, but to save the planet from aliens who he once thought only existed in comic books and video games.
Just like David in the Bible, Colt is the youngest of his brothers. He inexperienced, and he definitely has never fought aliens before, but he prevails with God's help. He overcomes a lot of really tough situations to fight against the Thule.

Over the next four weeks, we're going to talk about God helps us when we face difficult situations.

What are the giants in your life—the challenges that seem overwhelming or difficult? How could you ask God for help with them?
How can we act like David did, as we face our own challenges? When you face scary or difficult situations, do you tend to act like David, or do you turn into a monster like Goliath?

What are some ways God could help you? A lot of times, God gives us other people to help us. He might send a friend to talk to, or someone who has been through exactly what you're going through and knows how to handle it. What are some ways God has helped you in the past?

Today, you are going to become CHAOS agents, ready to fight against the Thule. This activity will prepare you for the activities in coming weeks. You'll design and create ID cards with your photo on them. You can download the ID card template here.

On the back, you'll write down your Thule: which monster are you fighting? It's not the monster from the book or Goliath, but the situation in your life that you are battling, the struggle that feels like a monster. What is it that you are scared or worried about and need God's help to battle?

I just love when publishers offer these little extras for the reader.  It really gives parents and other groups a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the story as opposed to superficially allowing the story to carry you along.  This would make an excellent choice for homeschooling Christians or other Christian youth group.  I highly recommend reading Invasion even if you are not a Christian since it is simply an engaging, exciting and thrilling story.  If you enjoy science fiction or end of the world type scenarios, secret projects and shadow groups you should enjoy Invasion.


jsl 135x160 Bio
Twitter * Facebook
Jon Samuel Lewis is an American writer best known for the acclaimed Grey Griffins series published by Scholastic’s Orchard Books. After selling nearly a million copies in the original trilogy, Lewis and his writing partner, Derek Benz teamed with Little Brown to produce the Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles.
He is also the author of CHAOS Novels, a young adult adventure series that combines supernatural, science fiction, and urban fantasy to create an exciting hybrid of non-stop adventure.
Lewis has written for DC/WildStorm. He is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Broadcasting, and has explored an eclectic career including news reporting, radio production, animation, graphic design, web development, mural painting, speech writing, video game development, voice over work, and marketing.
He currently resides in Arizona with his wife and children.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.